Category Archives: health

Rape in Fiction

The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King

Sex is a loaded topic in American Culture. There is always someone with an opinion on it. That makes sexual violence, such as rape/ childhood sexual abuse/ sexual assault, also a loaded topic. However, the reality is that one out of every six women will either experience an attempted or completed rape in their life time.

Sexual violence is the skeleton hidden in the closet of this country. No one wants to talk about it. Not even me. But, part of being a writer is exposing those things that no one wants to talk about or think about. Dorothy Allison, who wrote an incredible novel called Bastard Out of Carolina, advises writers to write toward the fear. Right now, in talking about sexual violence in a public way, I am definitely writing towards my fear.

So, with that preface, I bring forth my topic. Is rape appropriate in fiction? Obviously, there is no easy answer to this question. However, I am talking about it because silence keeps rape and sexual violence hidden. Rape culture thrives on that silence.

I’ve seen some scathing reviews of the recent Lara Croft game and the sexualized violence within. Furthermore, there are a variety of television tropes about rape and sexual violence in our culture. And the assumption that rape equals automatic drama. These are ways in which rape are used to superficially deepen a character, add tension to a story, or support the rape culture in which we live in.

Rape culture is an insidious thing. It wants to keep women shamed and self-blaming when they’ve been violated. Rape culture wants to keep a monolithic view of its victims – white and often young – and supposed to act a certain way and dress a certain way. If this woman wore the wrong clothes, went to the wrong neighborhood, etc, then it is her fault and the culture begins to blame her. Or if she is the wrong color – think of the eleven year old girl in Texas who was gang raped and was called a slut. Would she have been shamed this way if she were a white little girl? I highly doubt it.

In any case, rape culture, wants to keep survivors silent – in order to keep survivors victims. Furthermore, even if many women have not been raped, almost every woman I know has been harassed in one way or another at least once. And it pains me when I hear that harassment being characterized as “not that bad.” Because, women like men, should have bodily autonomy as a right and not as a privilege.

So then, the question I started with comes up again, is it appropriate to talk about rape in fiction? My answer is a tentative yes. As with all serious topics, it needs to be handled with care and not used as just another trope or device. It is all a matter about how you treat the topic.

As a survivor myself, sexual violence is a topic that keeps coming back to me in many of the novels and short stories that I write. Many of my short stories are of a gritty nature than my novels, which I write primarily in the fantasy genre. However, as with most of my art, sexual violence comes up in one way or another.

I often write about sexual violence as a way to try to make sense of my own experiences. These pieces are often intense and explore the depth of emotion, personal reaction, and experience. Mostly, I explore this from the survivor’s side of the story, and not the perpetrator’s side of the story.

In my mind, nothing makes rape or sexual violence excusable. However, rapists don’t see women as people with their own bodily autonomy. Rapists see women as objects from which they can take.

Furthermore, my story is different from other stories. There is no right way to be a survivor. There is no right way to react to having your boundaries ripped apart. Often our culture expects a certain narrative for the survivor. However, survivors are people too, and that means that reactions are as varied as the people who are taken advantage of.

Overall, I think that rape is a loaded topic in our culture. But, if we refuse to examine the way in which the culture silences and diminishes survivors/ thrivers then we are allowing rape culture to win.

© K. Klein 2013

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Some thoughts on violence

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. ~Khalil Gibran

I don’t often comment on events in the U.S. on my blog, but the recent events in Boston have been making me think. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I hope that the city of Boston is able to recover and move forward.

What worries me is the ongoing blame of Muslim people. I wish everyone could find a way to get along. Racism, classism, sexism and intolerance of religion divide us when we’re all so gloriously human. These divisions keep us from being the best of humanity. To the Muslim Americans out there, stay safe, and I hope you’re ok. And to Muslims across the world, not all Americans are afraid/ hateful of your religion.

Another worry and frustration I have is the casual idea that mental illness inherently causes violence. When in reality “mental illness” is a broad umbrella that includes diverse issues from anxiety to depression and bi-polar to schizophrenia. Have you ever seen the diagnostic manual that therapists/ psychiatrists use? It is huge and for good reason, there are many ways that the human brain can deviate from normal.

Most people with mental illness are not violent. Most people with normal brain chemistry are not violent. For example, people with schizophrenia are more likely to commit suicide than they are to commit violence with others. Here is some information from NIMH:

Are people with schizophrenia violent?

People with schizophrenia are not usually violent. In fact, most violent crimes are not committed by people with schizophrenia.7 However, some symptoms are associated with violence, such as delusions of persecution. Substance abuse may also increase the chance a person will become violent.8 If a person with schizophrenia becomes violent, the violence is usually directed at family members and tends to take place at home.

The risk of violence among people with schizophrenia is small. But people with the illness attempt suicide much more often than others. About 10 percent (especially young adult males) die by suicide.9,10 It is hard to predict which people with schizophrenia are prone to suicide. If you know someone who talks about or attempts suicide, help him or her find professional help right away.

People with schizophrenia are not usually violent.

I don’t have specific studies to back me up, but I am going to extrapolate here and say that most people with mental illness are not violent. And I would also venture to say that it is wrong to say that because one person in a group does something wrong to say that all people in a group are that way.

For example, I do not believe, that all Muslims are terrorists. Because that is a ridiculous assumption. Muslims are all human. There are good people and bad people as well as people in the middle. In any group of humans, there are violent people, kind people, and mediocre people. In the end we’re all just human.

Why do we feel the need to demonize one group or another when violence happens? That violence was created by the choices of the people who committed that act. It was not committed by an entire group of people at once.

I hope we can all follow Mr. Rogers’s excellent advice and look for the helpers. The people who stepped up and made a difference when atrocity shook us all.

© K. Klein 2013

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Word Count Update & More Whatnot

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them. Anne Rice

I am well into drafting novel-2 and have a bit over 18k at the moment. I am pleased with this progress. It would be nice if I could get the motivation to write for more than 1-2 hours in a day. But on the flip side, I am writing 6 days a week.

For some reason, mostly I think my social life; I can’t quite make it to writing all seven days of the week. I blame my social life because it takes up energy for me, as an introvert. And writing, though I love it, also takes up energy. So if I have a particularly social Friday or Saturday then I am probably going to not write much that day and so long as I can write six days a week I think I am ok with that. We shall see where my productivity experiment takes me.

My schedule is about to change this week due to new circumstances. And so that will affect my writing time. Although, I do know this much, I won’t be getting up at five am to write. I respect writers who do get up early and write, but I physically cannot do it.

Once, during NaNoWriMo 2011, I tried to get up two hours earlier than normal to write. I was in grad school, and looking for time to write. What happened? I spent the entire two hours drinking coffee and staring into space incoherently. It comes as no to surprise to me, as I have been a night owl since childhood, but it can be disappointing at times.

The mornings and I just do not get along. I set the alarm twenty or thirty minutes earlier than I need to get up so that I can hit the snooze button and hold the day at bay for that longer. It doesn’t help matters that I also have trouble sleeping, so that even on good days I still wake up a bit groggy. It sucks to be perpetually overdrawn on one’s sleep bank. Oh well, in the end, I am a night owl and I shall make time to get the writing done even as my schedule changes.

©K. Klein 2013

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Life outside of writing

Nothing encourages creativity like the chance to fall flat on one’s face.  ~James D. Finley

I bitch and moan about writing a lot, but when I finally get down to it; it is what I love to do. However, I do plan on making it my career, or at least one of them, depending on how things pan out. That means that I need to figure out ways to blow off steam and refill the well.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is reading, but that also tends to be from a critical or work space. Especially if a book is not working for me or I am trying to tackle one of those cannon novels I can’t believe I didn’t read in college when I was working towards an English degree.

I have things that I am interested in learning how to do that I don’t quite have the money to pursue at the moment, but I guess that is ok. Here is a brief list:

  • Learning Spanish – an addendum to this one b/c my wonderful public library has a subscription to Mango, which is an online language learning service. I just found out about it today. It is awesome. I still want to take a conversational class at my local community college. I really want to improve my speaking confidence.
  • Take a painting class
  • Learn how to knit/ crochet. I really want to knit myself a pair of arm warmers
  • Learn how to quilt
  • Resume jewelry making. Stuff is in storage now. If I had some money, maybe take a class.
  • Learn how to sew more than a basic hand stitch. (Even than needs work). Boyfriend’s mom just lent us her sewing machine, score. Now to make time.
  • Travel
  • Photography – I need to keep reminding myself my phone has a camera. I really, really want a DSLR

Aside from crafty stuff, I enjoy going to museums, concerts, plays, and other cultural events. Sadly, in my major metropolitan area, it is super expensive to get into the awesome museums. If/ when I have money, I want a membership to my local major art museum. I always leave that museum feeling refreshed and inspired.

On the bright side, I can take walks in local parks for free. The weather isn’t conducive to that right at the moment. But my area does have lovely places for me to go and wander around. And I also enjoy doing yoga. And the volunteer tutoring I started in January.

I suppose once I get my financial life back in order, I can pursue some of these things. I just need to have patience. I also need to focus a bit. For real, I am not a reckless dilettante despite what this list says about me. But it is nice to know that I do have a life outside of reading and writing – things that can be rather cerebral pursuits. Because really, I don’t have a hard time relaxing, not at all. No, not me.

©K. Klein 2013

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Mental & physical flexibility

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. ~Author Unknown

Last night was my first time doing yoga in a month because of being sick. And man did I feel the gap between my last yoga session and this one. I was super tight and stiff while warming up. Thankfully the instructor took us through a good warm up and I loosened up, but it reminded me why it is important to practice. Obviously, being sick is a good reason to take it easy, but hopefully I will be healthy the rest of this winter and then I shall need to stick with my practice.

Yoga, like my writing, is something that I love to do, but it doesn’t always come easily to me. It takes a long time to form a life changing habit – getting to form those grooves in the neural pathways of the brain. I still haven’t recovered my writing everyday or even near everyday habit that I broke at the end of grad school. Obviously school was important to me, but I am still upset that I haven’t gotten back on the horse, so to speak. I am writing, but not every day.

I would be astounded if I could get to doing yoga every day. Right now my goal is to practice 1-2 times weekly and once I establish that routine maybe put in another session. I don’t want to jump the gun now because I am trying to re-establish the every week yoga that I’d work on in the late summer and early autumn.

It is interesting to me to see how difficult it is to form new and good habits and so damn easy for me to fall back on already established habits. It is annoying because sometimes I know these established patterns of behavior are unproductive. (I’m looking at your anxiety freak outs). But as with all things, if I want to change myself, I have to try. And so here I am going at it one week at a time with yoga and one day at a time with writing.

©K. Klein 2012

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Just bleed

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway

Unfortunately, as much time as I have spent thinking about new idea and anticipating writing it, the writing is being difficult. My mind is resisting and trying to run away in fear. I want to hold back. I’ve hit upon a personal nerve. Oddly enough, NaNoWriMo often brings to light things that I don’t want to face.

Ironically, even though this novel is set in a magic pseudo-futuristic America, the main character’s mother is insane. Part of the major conflict is the main character needing to pay for mental healthcare for her mother. This is something I discovered in the planning on Halloween, but it makes sense for the larger plot overall.

This hits a personal nerve. My own mother is schizophrenic. Sometimes it just hurts to think that. A tiny piece of me is terrified of becoming ill like her; more often I am just terrified of becoming her. So having a character who is intimately dealing with the relationship with her own mother strikes me deeply.

I haven’t talked with my mother in a decade and going on longer. There are many reasons beyond my own mother’s illness of why we have not had contact in that long. Ultimately, I made the decision for my health.

So here I am, at the beginning of NaNoWriMo writing a novel about a daughter who is willing to do anything to care for her mentally ill mother; setting regardless. I might as well take the kitchen knife and slice my wrist open – I think that would hurt less. I honestly don’t mean to be melodramatic. I know it probably sounds pretty over the top to those who aren’t inside of my head.

But the issues that I have surrounding my mother and the array of confusing feelings – love, hatred, anger – decided to come up. Why hello issues, it is nice to see you again too. Not.

Wish me luck. Maybe I can dig into the fear as Dorothy Allison advises. I hope to bring honesty to whatever I write. I just have to sit down and face myself to do it. Sometimes seeing yourself clearly is the hardest thing there is to do.

©K. Klein 2012

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Bits n pieces of faith

faith (noun)

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.

2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

Definition from dictionary.com

I desperately want to be an optimist at heart, but due to life events and general disposition I am not. Being prone to anxiety and catastrophizing doesn’t help. Seriously, I’m not dramatic or anything. Despite this general tendency to see the whole world collapsing around me I try to take a deep breath and let go. Because really, the world is not falling apart around me and nine times out of ten even if things don’t go the way I want them to it will turn out ok.

My mantra in life is: everything will be ok.

If I say it often enough I sometimes believe it too. For good measure, everything will be ok.

This takes a certain amount of faith, which is something I struggle with immensely. Faith takes an amount of confidence that I often lack. It also takes believing in something or someone. I find this incredibly hard.

I grew up in a Catholic household. And as a kid, I believed in God. As an adult, I am agnostic. I don’t definitely believe in God. However, I don’t believe there is definitive proof against God, either. It is an odd philosophical stance to straddle. Sometimes I wish I could grasp on to the faith that came so easily to me in childhood.

At times I can grasp shards of that faith I once held, but I find it like pieces of a shattered mirror. I can’t really hold the whole together anymore because the edges are too jagged. I find this frustrating because if I could hold the whole then I could see the picture with more clarity.

I might be able to see myself with more clarity. Part of the faith that I lost is the faith in me. I have never been a paragon of self-confidence. However, there fact is that the rough times in my life battered what faith in myself I do have.

Every day I wake up and have to face down those self-doubts. Will I finish my novel? Once finished, will people enjoy reading my novel? Those are the most common questions I find myself asking when I feel the self-doubt creeping up my spine.

These are the times when I try to have faith in myself. When faith is difficult to come by I try to cope through taking a deep breath, writing about the feelings, and doing yoga. How do you cope when you are questioning your faith? Do you pray or meditate? Do you write about it? Or do you have a completely different coping mechanism?

©K. Klein 2012

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